Saturday, January 28, 2012

January Daring Baker's Challenge-Biscuits

Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

So, I've made a fair amount of biscuits in my day, so I decided to spice up this challenge a little by using some local produce!  In mid-January, there isn't a whole lot exciting going on in the produce section at the local grocery store.  Basically, it's cold out and, although you can get apples and oranges (heck, when can't you?), there isn't much else.  Except persimmons.  I found the biggest, ripest, juiciest persimmon and brought it home to use it in these biscuits.  What I didn't know is how juicy a persimmon needs to be in order to be considered "ripe." 

There are two main varieties of persimmon available in the US - Fuyu and Hachiya.  Although a Fuyu persimmon can be eaten before it completely ripens, a Hachiya persimmon will be terribly bitter if eaten before it is time.  The fruit has a high tannin content which makes the immature fruit bitter. The tannin levels are reduced as the fruit matures. The best way to describe a Hachiya persimmon that's ripe is that it looks and feels like a water balloon that's about to burst.  In order to help it along, I put the persimmon in a paper bag for a couple of days. When it was ready, I made some biscuits....

Persimmon Biscuits
Servings: about five 3-inch (7½ cm) biscuits

1 1/4 cup (6.25 oz) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (30 gm/1 oz) frozen grated butter
3/4 cup persimmon puree
1/4 cup (2 oz, 60 ml) cold milk

1 tablespoon milk or cream, for glazing the tops of the biscuits

Frozen grated butter to be rubbed into dry ingredients

1. Preheat oven to very hot 475°F/240°C.
2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
3. Rub the frozen grated butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky biscuits.
4. Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed).
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. Knead very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) the dough until it is smooth.
6. Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about ¾ inch thick. Using a well-floured 3-inch biscuit cutter, stamp out rounds without twisting.  Gently reform the scraps into another ¾ inch layer and cut more biscuits (these will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough).
7. Place the rounds on a baking sheet and glaze the tops with cream.  I also topped them with chopped, toasted pecans.
8. Bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the biscuits are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. They are ready when the sides are set.
9. Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.

The biscuits were fantastic!  The persimmon flavor was not as pronounced as I would have hoped, but it did add some moisture and faint color to the dough.  I may try it again, using more persimmon puree (no milk, but a splash of cream).  However, I really think this fruit needs another medium.  Back to the drawing board in the search of the perfect persimmon recipe! 

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